Where do thrips come from? Thrips (also known as whiteflies or leafhoppers) are tiny insects that suck the sap out of plants, leaving behind a sticky spot. The insects produce honeydew, which they feed on. Ticks, mites and other parasites are sometimes known collectively as “thrips.” When someone mentions “thrips,” it’s usually in reference to one type of pest: the aphid or nyctinid thrips.
The most common types of thrips include greenhouse thrips (Thrips tabaci), black fraud (Thrips obscurus) and whitefly thrips (Thripus vittatus). Their immature stages are microscopic, but they produce a pheromone that attracts the full-grown stage. That’s what causes them to be so prevalent in greenhouse environments.
The honeydew is what gives plants their so-called “muggy” or “musty” smell. But not all thrips are bad. Some species are more than happy to feed on plant nectar and plant juices. And some thrips are beneficial insects that eat other pests.
The good news is that most thrips species don’t harm plants in any way. They’re a minor annoyance, but there’s generally no need to panic about them.
Even so, it’s still a good idea to keep an eye out for them in your garden or greenhouse, especially if you have tender new seedlings and young plants in your collection. They’ll be a much bigger problem when the blooms start coming out and you’ll need to control these pests as well!
Generally speaking, thrips thrive on just about anything, though they prefer to infest things with high moisture content. That includes plants, fruit and vegetables, but also indoor furniture, rugs and clothes. They’re particularly fond of eating fabric dyes and proteins in fabrics, which is why they’re also known as “pinking shedders.”
Where Do Thrips Live?
Once you figure out the answer to where do thrips come from, the next thing is to think about their habitat. Thrips are often found in shaded, moist areas, such as near plant roots or under the bark of trees or houseplants. But they can also be in urban areas, especially near gardens or outdoor spaces where there is minimal airflow. The life cycle of thrips is fairly simple. Adult thrips lay eggs in the soil or on plant leaves. These eggs then hatch into nymphs, which are about 1/8 inch long. Nymphs feed on other insects that live in the soil or on leaves, and then molt into adults without ever leaving their place of residence.
Thrips can be found on most indoor and outdoor plants, including potted plants, terrariums, flower pots, windowsills and so on. It’s important to note that thrips aren’t harmful to human health; however, they can be bothersome because they leave visible “lice-like” marks on leaves.
How thrips can invade a Garden
Thrips can get into your garden in a number of ways. They can hitchhike on plants brought into your home or make their way inside through open windows or doors. But most often, you’ll find them in places you wouldn’t expect. Indoors, they’re often attracted by lights or other things that provide food or shelter. Indoors, they’ll often overwinter as eggs but are more likely to be pests during warm weather.
They’re often found in closets where stored clothing is kept because clothing acts as a host for the tiny pests’ eggs. You should inspect your closets regularly, especially if they’re in damp areas or if they house expensive items like fine clothing or jewellery.
Thrips usually aren’t dangerous, but they can transmit diseases such as powdery mildew to plants. If you have a problem with thrips on your flowers and garden plants, consult an expert who’s familiar with the signs of these pests so you can treat your property right away.
Eliminating Thrips: Control methods
Thrips can be found in many parts of the country, though some are more common than others. They’re most likely to invade your home if you have a mildew problem or if you have a lot of humidity. But some thrips — including the species that causes fire blight in tomatoes and peppers — can cause serious damage when they infest fields and vineyards.
Because they don’t bite or sting, you can get rid of thrips yourself. The best method depends on how well you can see the insect and how easily you can kill it with one shot of insecticide. Here are some ways to get rid of them:
Thrips are generally easy to control with pesticide sprays, though it’s best to first use a combination of pesticides to determine which solution works best for you. Applying insecticidal soaps to foliage is another way to control thrips. Most soaps contain a substance called pyrethrin, which is poisonous to insects. However, because it’s water-soluble, it doesn’t work as well when applied directly to plants as it does when applied directly to foliage.
Thrips in your house? If you want to get rid of these pests once and for all, contact an exterminator; that way, you’ll know what kind of products your exterminator will use on your home and how effective they’ll be at removing these pests.
Symptoms of thrips infestation include:
Thrips manifest through mottling on the underside of leaves, sometimes with a yellow or white cast. Thrips often appear as a light brown “mold” on the underside of leaves. The mottle can look like small dots or large dark spots.
Thrips tend to appear in areas where temperatures are cooler and humidity is higher. They’re more common in winter months when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and humidity levels rise above 80 percent.
Effects of Thrips on plants
Thrips don’t do much damage to plants themselves, but they do cause problems by eating leaves. Plants infected with thrips can’t produce as many leaves, making the plants more susceptible to diseases and pests.
Thrips also spread viruses, so they could have a negative effect on your plants if you’re growing them with other plants that might be susceptible to the same virus. If you see any of the following signs on your plants, take action:
- Leaves are curling or cupping (they’re more likely to curl when it’s hot)
- The leaves turn brown before dying
- Leaves have white spots or streaks (these could be from mold or other disease)
The most effective way to control thrips is with biological control. This is when an insect predator — in this case, a wasp — attacks and kills thrips. The wasps often come from other places around the globe, such as Japan and South Africa, so it’s important to know where they come from so you can make sure they won’t hurt your plants.
There are two types of wasps: ambush and parasitic. The first type hides under leaves or boards and waits for its prey to come close enough. Then it grabs it with its legs, injects it with venom and lays an egg on its back as a food supply for the larvae. The larvae eat their prey from the back until they’re full grown.
Parasitic wasps (like this one) latch onto thrips’ bodies after being attracted by their pheromone-emitting odor glands located on the thorax.